“It Won’t Scour”

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  When Lincoln finished, “the assemblage stood motionless and silent,” according to the awestruck George Gitt. “The extreme brevity of the address together with its abrupt close had so astonished the hearers that they stood transfixed. Had not Lincoln turned and moved toward his chair, the audience would very likely have remained voiceless for several moments more. Finally there came applause.” Lincoln may have initially interpreted the audience’s surprise as disapproval. As soon as he finished, he turned to Ward Lamon. “Lamon, that speech won’t scour! It is a flat failure, and the people are disappointed.” Edward Everett knew better, and expressed his wonder and respect the following day. “I should be glad,” he wrote Lincoln, “if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

By Doris Kearns Goodwin,“Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”Goodwin-573-389-05

What! Had he forgotten? Or was it really all he had to say? People were too surprised and disappointed to applaud.
Many a spring, back in Indiana, Lincoln had tried to break ground with a rusty plow; but the soil had stuck to its mold board, and made a mess. It wouldn’t “scour.” That was the term people used. Throughout his life, when Lincoln wanted to indicate that a thing had failed, he frequently resorted to the phraseology of the cornfield. Turning now to Ward Lamon, Lincoln said: “That speech is a flat failure, Lamon. It won’t scour. The people are disappointed.” He was right. Every one was disappointed, including Edward Everett and Secretary Seward, who were sitting on the platform with the President. They both believed he had failed woefully; and both felt sorry for him.
Lincoln was so distressed that he worried himself into a severe headache; and on the way back to Washington, he had to lie down in the drawing-room of the train and have his head bathed with cold water. Lincoln went to his grave believing that he had failed utterly at Gettysburg. And he had, as far as the immediate effect of his speech was concerned.

      With characteristic modesty, he sincerely felt that the world would “little note nor long remember” what he said there, but that it would never forget what the brave men who died had done there. How surprised he would be if he should come back to life now and realize that the speech of his that most people remember is the one that didn’t “scour” at Gettysburg! How amazed he would be to discover that the ten immortal sentences he spoke there will probably be cherished as one of the literary glories and treasures of earth centuries hence, long after the Civil War is all but forgotten.

By Dale Carnegie,“Lincoln, the Unknown” ,Carnegie-167-28.

One thought on ““It Won’t Scour”

    Others About Modesty « Abraham Lincoln said:
    April 20, 2020 at 22:47

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